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How children react to a breast cancer diagnosis

Children are often concerned about changes in the family and are worried that the well parent may also get sick. Children might also worry that they have caused their parent’s illness.

The effect of a woman’s cancer diagnosis on her children may be reflected in their behaviour. It can be helpful for women to tell a teacher at their child’s school about their cancer diagnosis so that the school understands the reason for any changes in behaviour.

Children might have a range of responses to their mum’s diagnosis, such as:

  • being angry at her for being sick
  • withdrawing from her
  • clinging to her
  • resenting that they need to help her
  • behaving badly to cover up real feelings
  • wanting to get sick to get attention
  • going through the stages of grief their mother is going through
  • being afraid that they will get cancer too.